Approaching Festival Authors: It’s an Art Form
Approaching Festival Authors: A Few Tips for Meeting Your Literary Heroes
By Chrissy Meyer (South Dakota Festival of Books Volunteer)
So there we were, sitting innocently at a conference, when Thea Miller Ryan and I gazed across the room and saw him: C.J. Box. The writer. As we whispered in delight at the prospect of meeting him, Mr. Box left the room, and our hopes seemed dashed.
What happened next has been retold as legend over many a cup of coffee. Armed with two postcards and a black marker, Thea and I chased him down. Literally. We honestly ran down the hallway after him. When he appeared to be heading to the men’s room, our footsteps slowed, but we were relieved when he took a right turn. Finally, when we were within hailing distance, I said, “Mr. Box? I’m sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if we might be able to get an autograph? We’re really big fans of your books.”
As a grin covered his face, he said he was happy to oblige, and both Thea and I not only got our autographs, but we also took photos, and had a quick discussion about his books. It was a perfectly executed fan moment. Approaching Festival authors can be considered an art form.
One of the best parts about the South Dakota Festival of Books is that with more than 50 writers in one location at one time, moments like this can – and do – happen a lot. Meeting your favorite authors at a book festival can be a total rush, and also an opportunity for blunder, too. I’ve often joked that after seeing Sam Kean (Sam will also be at the 2014 Festival!) at the 2012 Festival in Sioux Falls, I stalked him for the remainder of the event.
Meeting your favorite writers can be intimidating, but here are three simple tips to keep in mind to make the experience pleasant for you AND for your quarry – er – favorite writers.
- Authors are people too. Do ask them questions and talk about the things you enjoy about their work. Don’t be afraid to ask an author for an autograph. Remember, authors are human beings just like you, and if you are a fan, they love to hear about it. Don’t be afraid to interact with a writer on a subject other than his or her work, as well. As people, writers often have other interests outside of the written word. A little research ahead of time, and a well-thought-out question can help you connect on a whole other level, and make the experience more rewarding for you both!
- Be respectful of their time. At the South Dakota Festival of Books, authors can be pressed for time, especially when they’re presenting a seminar. Keep in mind that there are lots of other attendees vying for the opportunity to talk to your favorite writer, too, which means that monopolizing an author’s time is probably not a good way to make a positive impression.
- Don’t be rude. It’s simple, treat a writer the way you would like to be treated as a human being (see No. 1 above). That means that it’s probably not appropriate to ask a writer to review your manuscript or to ask for a recommendation with his or her publisher. It’s also just plain rude to ask questions about how many books a writer has sold or how much money he or she made on the last book. It may seem like common sense, but you may be surprised at some of the questions writers are asked from time to time.
Above all, just remember that as the place where readers and writers connect, the South Dakota Festival of Books is a great opportunity for you to interact with writers in a personal setting. As a book lover, there is no better feeling in the world than getting to meet one of your heroes… and with these tips, you can be confident in a positive and rewarding experience.